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July 21, 2008

More evidence that it's the prison economy, stupid

This local article from North Carolina, headlined "Expanding prisons mean more jobs," highlights how mass incarceration trends get supported by what could be called prison-idustrial complex:

With the new state budget, lawmakers have approved more than $30 million over the past two years to expand the state prison in Scotland County, which opened just five years ago.  The prison is one of six that state lawmakers have approved since 2001 to address a dire need for prison space, and they are already being expanded.  When complete, the construction and expansions at all six facilities will have cost more than $700million and operating costs will top $100 million annually.

Projects like the one in Scotland have become a boon for rural, economically distressed counties. Prison jobs bring added payroll, boost housing markets and draw new retail customers to poor parts of the state....

[F]or towns like Laurinburg and Tabor City, where the last of the six newest prisons is being built, the prisons mean jobs and money for the local economy. Belinda Graves, president of the Tabor City Chamber of Commerce, said some residents at first were uneasy about a prison coming to town. “There was some concern, and there was excitement,” Graves said. “Some people had concerns about the possibility of escaped inmates, but those concerns have died down. Most people are excited about the jobs.”...

The spin-off benefits were seen in Scotland County even before the prison opened.  The prison’s construction provided jobs, and some materials came from local suppliers.  “We view that prison as a positive,” said J.D. Willis, chairman of the Scotland County Board of Commissioners, who lobbied for the prison in 2000 and 2001 before the site was chosen.  “We had to hold a public hearing before it came here, and we had no negative comments whatsoever.”

The Scotland prison has a $16.9million annual payroll, Willis said, and almost 200 of the prison’s 410 jobs are filled by county residents.  The others, who come from Robeson, Hoke, Bladen and other surrounding counties, dine and buy gas and other goods in Laurinburg.

Laurinburg Mayor Matthew Brock said Scotland County so badly needed a lift that the prison was not seen as a dirty industry, unlike a large landfill that was considered in the county until the plans were scrapped last year.... He said the prison has been a positive for the community. “I haven’t heard any negatives in terms of having the prison here,” Brock said. “A lot of the reason is unemployment is so high. People are obviously happy to have the opportunity for jobs.”

This article showcases how increases in incarceration rates provide something of a 21st century WPA, though I suppose the acronym now stands for Works Prison Admininstration.

July 21, 2008 at 07:43 AM | Permalink


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Many prison administrators and officers seem to make a conscious effort to "not" rehabilitate inmates. After all, recidivism means job security. Something is very wrong with this picture. Aside from the obvious, they also police themselves, making for an even more dangerous situation for inmates and citizens.

Posted by: Rhonda | Nov 20, 2009 4:41:55 PM

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